Miami, April 10, 2019 – Miami Dade College’s (MDC) Koubek Center as part of its Little Havana Social Club series holds a grand celebration of Puerto Rican culture with La Máquina Insular, a musical group made up of bomba and plena masters, on Friday, April 19 at 8 p.m. in the Koubek Center gardens. This show marks the band’s Florida debut.
Bomba and plena are the percussion-driven genres reflective of Puerto Rico’s African heritage. Where bomba is a source of political and spiritual expression, driving people to dance, plena is more narrative, “the people’s newsapaper,” in which musicians share information through song and reflect what’s going on in everyday life.
An offshoot of Puerto Rico’s acclaimed Viento de Agua orchestra, La Máquina Insular carries on this tradition of street music. Led by Héctor “Tito” Matos, considered one of the best requinto players of his generation, the band uses traditional acoustic instruments such as panderetas, güiros, tumbanderos and clarinets to bring to life their repertoire of classic and contemporary bombas and plenas.
Established over a decade ago in Santurce, the biggest and most populated of all the districts in the Puerto Rican capital, San Juan, La Máquina Insular has been driving the island’s revival of street-corner bomba and plena, taking them back to their roots. As an example, the song ‛Somos la plena’ is a manifesto about the vitality of street and communal plena, paying homage to the genre’s greatest stars and highlighting iconic neighborhoods.
With no shortage of current topics to sing about—from Hurricane Maria and voting rights, to citizens leaving the island and businesses creeping in— the group has become more than just tradition-bearers or messengers. Thoroughly engaged with the community, they have become de facto activists, most recently winning the rights to an abandoned, historic school building where Puerto Rican composer and salsa singer Ismael Rivera attended as a child. The building, which was being slated to be sold for privatized business, will instead become a community cultural center, with Tito Matos as one of the leaders: a hopeful example of the power of art, and even more cause to celebrate at the group’s Miami premiere.
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WHAT: MDC’s Koubek Center Presents La Máquina Insular
WHEN: Friday, April 19, at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Koubek Center, 2705 S.W. Third St
Tickets are available at koubekcenter.org, $20 in advance / $25 the day of the event.
About Tito Matos
Héctor “Tito” Matos was born in 1968 in Villa Palmera, a poor neighborhood of Santurce, Puerto Rico. From an early age he was exposed to plena. After his grandfather gave him a pandereta for Three Kings Day, he quickly gained recognition for his outstanding and innovative improvisations. By listening and watching the numerous musicians that performed plena in Villa Palmera, he expanded this initial knowledge and built a local reputation for himself. During Christmas time each year, he showcased these skills by performing parrandas (Christmas serenades) for money in middle or upper-middle class neighborhoods.
His professional artistic career began in the 1980s, when he began to play with various plena groups, most notably Los Pleneros del Pueblo and Los Sapos del Cano. Later he joined the legendary group Los Pleneros de la 23 Abajo and participated in presentations and recordings with other noted musicians in Puerto Rico. In 1994, he immigrated to New York to finish his university studies, and joined Los Pleneros de la 21, a plena y bomba group originally formed in the south Bronx in 1983, for recordings and musical tours. Since 1997, he has directed his own group, Viento de Agua, as well as serving as its lead vocalist, percussionist, and arranger. The group is a conglomeration of several members of Los Pleneros de la 21, as well as other seasoned musicians schooled in salsa and jazz.
In addition to performing tirelessly with Viento de Agua, Los Pleneros de la 21, and other New York bomba y plena groups, he has been an invited guest on recordings (three of them Grammy-nominated) by William Cepeda, Ralph Irizarry, Eddie Palmieri, David Sánchez, and Miguel Zenón. Matos has appeared in TV specials for Gloria Estefan and Ricky Martin and has performed in concert specials and festivals in Cuba, Venezuela, Spain, France, Italy, Australia, Canada, and Mexico. In December 2003, after earning his degree in architecture, he returned with his family to Puerto Rico, where he continues to perform bomba y plena in a variety of mediums.
About The Koubek Center
The Koubek Center is an intellectual, cultural, and community hub in the heart of Little Havana. A historic landmark in South Florida, the revitalized mansion remains true to its pioneering heritage—celebrating its multicultural community with workshops, art exhibitions, theater performances, literary readings, concerts and more. In addition to the mansion, the iconic space includes glorious gardens, the Koubek Theater, the ArtSpace gallery, classrooms, and mini performance spaces.
The programs of Koubek Center are made possible with the generous support of: Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council; the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissionaires; the State of Florida, Department of State , Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture; Southern Exposure: Performing Arts of Latin America, a program of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation made possible through the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts; and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.